Apparently We Wanted Our Porn With a Side of Romance This Year

According to Pornhub's 2021 Year in Review report, searches related to "romance" more than doubled this year

Interracial heterosexual couple holding hands at home. Millennial young love between two different races. Couple on an intimate moment lying on a bed. Lifestyle at home. Young people.
Romantic porn was in for 2021.
Beatriz Vera / EyeEm

It’s that beautiful time of year when we are forced to face the reality that everything we do online is closely monitored and mined for meaningful, money-making data, which is then fed back to us in the form of colorful year-end infographics to share with our followers on social media who could not possibly care less. It’s a time for Spotify to remind you just how many times you streamed the Olivia Rodrigo album (or worse yet, just how little your taste in music has changed since you were in high school), a time for Grubhub to bring you face to face with the exact number of times you ordered takeout instead of cooking dinner and a time for Pornhub to tell the world exactly what we were all getting off to this year.

The world’s largest online porn platform released its eighth annual Year in Review report this week, providing a detailed overview of how, what and when we porned this year. The report is packed with insights, from what people in Ukraine were searching for (it’s literally just “sex”) to what Gen Z was watching compared to Gen X (“lesbian” and “cartoon” porn, respectively). Each year, however, Pornhub opens its review by naming the top ten or so search terms that defined the year in porn.

Keep in mind, these terms aren’t necessarily the most popular overall — though there is often some overlap — but rather terms that received a significant increase in traffic and which Pornhub has deemed reflective of the spirit of the year. In 2019, for example, alien porn was a vibe, while 2020 was, unsurprisingly, defined by quarantine porn.

This year, Pornhub’s top defining term was “hentai,” which refers to a pornographic form of anime and also happens to be the most popular search term in the world.

Taking a sharp turn for the traditional, however, Pornhub’s second most defining term of 2021 was “romance,” which seems surprisingly wholesome coming from a platform where users routinely search for things like “creampie,” “gangbang,” “big tits” and “big ass” (all of which were among the most searched terms of the year, by the way).

According to Pornhub, the popularity of searches containing “romance” and “romantic” more than doubled, while the platform also saw a 139% increase in “passionate” searches. Unsurprisingly, we might attribute this trend towards romance to a pandemic-inspired craving for closeness and human connection, which “has become far more important this past pandemic year,” according to Dr. Laurie Betito, clinical psychologist, sex therapist and director of the Pornhub Sexual Wellness Center.

“Many people have experienced loneliness and isolation and may be craving love, intimacy and romance,” Betito said in the report. “So the next best thing to a partner it seems, are the fantasies of romance.”

Moreover, “romantic” porn might strike some users as more relatable or realistic.

“More and more people are looking for genuine interactions between performers and more realistic depictions of sex. ‘Romantic’ or ‘passionate’ porn somehow feels and looks more authentic,” said sex educator and writer Dainis Graveris. “Many people see this porn genre as an inspiration for their sexual actions and preferences because the narratives speak to them. Viewers can use these romantic scenes to not only attain sexual satisfaction but also explore their sexual identity. The content aims to break the fictional standards of porn.”

Whether you like your porn romantic, anime or extraterrestrial, I hope you all enjoyed yourselves this year. Wishing you all happy holidays, and a very horny New Year.

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